Another Indian tradition that has never received sufficient recognition is the fact that the civilization has been by and large respectful of others, as well as democratic:
- Tolerance for heresies and for refugees
- Heresies such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were accepted and not persecuted by Hindus
- Refugees such as Jews fleeing Roman oppression around 72 CE, Syrian Christians fleeing persecution in Syria in the 345 CE time frame, Parsis fleeing Iran around 750 CE, Tibetans fleeing Chinese oppression since 1950 have all been welcome.
- Among 148 countries Jews have lived in, India is the only one in which they were never persecuted
- Indus-Sarasvati sites noted for lack of armies or sculpture or seals glorifying the arts of war
- No large royal palaces or homes of noblemen
- No signs of violent struggle across the vast area of the civilization, not even in the abandoned cities: this implies that they were not conquered, but ran out of water
- The Indus-Sarasvati civilization seems to have existed not under the power of military might, but under genuine republican rule of the people
- If so, this is unique among the history of civilizations
- There is an ancient tradition of democracy going back to the Mahajanapadas of North India and to Chola times in South India, and the ancient rules for elections carved on stone edicts in places like Chingelput, Tamil Nadu, are more stringent than in modern-day democracies
- Emperor Asoka the Great's rule was unmatched in the world in the peaceful management of a large empire, after the initial violence in Kalinga.
Here I have merely touched upon the vast riches of Indian history. For doing so, the usual suspects will label me a divisive communalist fascist obscurantist. Whereas the real fascists are the Marxists and Nehruvian Stalinists who are using the coercive power of the State for putsches, coups and intellectual purges. HRD minister Arjun Singh has been on a jihad lately, shouting "off with his head" at the slightest provocation. He would have been quite at home in Stalin's Soviet Union, happily deleting individuals and events from the history du jour.
Arjun Singh's biases are clear: he prefers Islamist and Marxist interpretations. Marxist versions of history are generally intended to increase China's sphere of influence. For example, they use very dubious history to claim Tibet. The only historical claim China has on Tibet is that they were both part of the Mongol empire of Chengiz and Kublai Khan (see Claude Arpi, The Fate of Tibet, Har-Anand). Tibet was, for most of its history, a fiercely independent and warlike state. Chinese claims on Tibet based on distorted history are as absurd as if India were to claim Singapore since both were part of the British empire.
Chinese irredentism doesn't stop there. It wants territory from every one of its neighbors: Xinjiang, Tibet (both annexed), Siberia (Russia), Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Ladakh (India), the Spratly Islands (Vietnam), Mischief Reef (the Philippines), the Senkaku Islands (Japan), Taiwan. And every one of these claims is based on extremely dubious, manufactured history. There must be oodles of Chinese mandarins beavering away at making up history.
I was entertained to hear about the latest Chinese claim, this one on both North and South Korea. Thanks to readers Rajan and Ravi for bringing this to my attention
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/FH11Ad03.htm. The Chinese are now claiming that the Korean Koguryo kingdom was theirs, and therefore the Koreas belong to China! The Chinese are putting the economic squeeze on the Koreas to force them to accede to its self-serving view of history. Similarly, Europe may soon find itself under economic pressure to concede that the Mongol empire, which extended as far as the outskirts of Vienna, belongs to China. The fact that Mongols were from Mongolia, not China, and that they brutally enslaved the Han Chinese, is a minor detail they obfuscate.
The Marxist missionaries in India are similarly preparing the way for Chinese territorial claims on large parts of India, now that Tibet has been devoured and its Indic culture destroyed. The Chinese quest for lebensraum continues apace: they have an insatiable hunger for land. This has to be resisted fiercely by anyone who cares for India.
Furthermore, reader Malolan brought to my attention new research on Alexander the Macedonian. Here is a link to a review ("Alexander the bloody brutal" in the UK Guardian http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/biography/0,6121,1273578,00.html) of a book that debunks the mystique about Alexander, and shows that he was an appalling monster who had more luck than smarts. White historians have inflated his deeds, calling him "the Great". But of course they have never accepted "Ashoka the Great", or "Rajaraja Chola the Great" despite their singular accomplishments.
This, however, is what one expects: each nation and culture pumps up the valorous deeds of its people, as part of its propaganda efforts, and to establish its greatness. For example, the Chinese recently made much ado about the alleged achievements of some Admiral Gao or something like that, who they claim circumnavigated the world.
India, misled by sundry nattering nabobs of negativism, is the only nation that does the opposite, namely downplaying the real and brilliant achievements of its culture and civilization and its citizens. The stunning accomplishments of Indian civilization have been denigrated in a sustained campaign. With Nehruvian Stalinists and Marxists in power, this process has received fresh impetus.
The activities of the HRD ministry recently have been so offensive that a group of intellectuals led by Swami Dayananda Sarasvati, and including people like Dr Nanditha Krishna, Dr Padma Subramanyam, Dr R Nagaswamy, Smt Tavleen Singh, Prof Prema Pandurang, Prof Kapil Kapoor, Prof Makarand Paranjape, Sri P Parameswaran, Sri P R Krishnakumar, and Brahmachari Abhayamrita Chaitanya, have approached the President of India with a letter on July 12 regarding the ongoing controversies concerning textbooks and education. The letter asks the Government of India to work for a "lighter, fulfilling and stimulating education, based on innovative pedagogy and promoting the great human values and achievements of Indian culture."
The letter talks about three issues:
- Besides, "the most sublime concepts of Hindu, Buddhist or Jain scriptures are covered, if at all, in a dry paragraph or two; Hindu society is consistently portrayed as regressive, superstitious or stagnant while Islamic and Christian inputs receive much praise; in fact, Islamic rulers are depicted as generally well-intentioned, progressive, broad-minded and tolerant, while their millions of victims are denied even the right to be remembered (contrast this with the way other nations zealously preserve the memories of such holocausts)."
- "The net result of Marxist historiography is an effective denial of the spiritual foundations of Indian civilization and of its original, sustained, varied contributions to the progress of humanity... How our spiritual culture has had a great cementing and unifying impact on the Indian masses is also passed over in silence."
- "Students who receive this education have no self-respect and are devoid of pride in their country. The result is that our young people are at best ignorant and at worst have contempt for their Indian self."
2. Teaching Indian culture and heritage. "The appalling ignorance of the average Indian student about India's heritage... We wish to stress that calling for an intelligent integration of Indian culture and heritage in education is not a sin; it is not 'communal' but progressive... Such cultivated ignorance, which even Macaulay would not have dreamed of, is inexcusable in independent India. Why India should be presented as a dark hole of ignorance, with all worthwhile knowledge seen to be coming from the West, is inexplicable. This only reflects on the ignorance of our educationists and textbook writers. It certainly does nothing to build the students' self-confidence as Indians, their pride in being Indian, and their respect for India."
3. The quality and modernization of Indian education. "Both teaching and learning have become caricatures of what they should be. The child's inquisitiveness and creative qualities are smothered and he or she is expected to become an unquestioning machine. Neither debate nor inquiry are encouraged. Textbooks are of generally a very poor standard, with irrelevant, undigested and seriously outdated data, shabby language, unappealing printing... In a word, we have created a cruel and hateful system."
The letter suggests that "what Indian intellectual life and education are yearning for is not ideology but freedom from ideologies; not thought police but stimulation for original, creative thinking... Let us spare our children the putrid politics of a few adults who have not been able to move away from colonial times. Let us feel proud of our Indian culture and heritage, which alone can save India from further fragmentation, and which still has much to offer to the world."
The HRD ministry's antics remind me of Pink Floyd in The Wall:
We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teacher, leave those kids alone!
Hey, Teacher, leave us kids alone!
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
The lousy education in India, in particular the teaching of history, is a crying shame. History is being used as a weapon to destroy the idea of India. By suppressing Sanskrit, irreparable damage has been done to India already. The anti-nationalists at the Center are now attempting to annihilate whatever has been salvaged.
By Rajeev Srinivasan